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Making workplaces more equitable for women

Michelle Fifis
Community Manager
Community Manager
Community Manager, Pledge 1%

As we celebrate Women's History Month, we're thrilled to share some amazing insights from our members through our #WomenWhoLead series. We asked these social impact leaders to share what can be done to make today’s workplaces more equitable and inclusive for women. Their answers are inspiring and a true testament to the supportive and innovative nature of the social impact community.


Check out what they have to say, and then share your answer to the question, What can be done to make today’s workplaces more equitable and inclusive for women?”


Neeti Mehta Shukla: Maverick Leadership, AI for Good, and Advancing Social Impact

AI is revolutionizing our world, presenting a tremendous opportunity for change. We have the chance to overcome societal biases against women by shaping the datasets used to develop new AI products and services. This allows us to accelerate progress that might have otherwise taken decades to achieve.


For instance, by ensuring that healthcare datasets are equally representative, we can mitigate biases in our healthcare products. This means innovations in healthcare will address issues faced by all genders. To drive this change, it's crucial to empower more women through upskilling and reskilling initiatives, enabling them to participate fully in the digital economy. Inclusion is key. -@AA


Elaine Forth: A Passionate Journey Towards Values-led Leadership and Social Impact

My company is well-recognized in our sector for being one of very few female-owned and female-led tech consultancies with an equal number of women employees. We are proud of our gender equality initiatives, including:


● Asking for (and listening to) feedback from women - we have established a Women in Tech community of practice where we can share experiences, create opportunities and share our best practices with the wider sector
● Ensuring that women are represented at all levels so that other women can be inspired by them - in our case the majority of our Directors, Managers and Senior Solutions Consultants are women
● Actively providing opportunities to break gender stereotypes for certain roles - developers tend to be male in our sector so we have set up a mentoring programe to upskill the women in our team who aspire to become developers
● Providing flexible working hours so women with young children can work around their home commitments


Masami Sato: Transforming Business for Social Impact and Gender Equality

We actually found women get things done differently (different brain-wiring?) and their contributions are also crucial in creating sustainable, long-term success of companies. It's important that we create changes in our companies in inclusive ways so every person gets respected and inspired to take part in uplifting our collective vision and actions (rather than judging and blaming one another).


When businesses truly understand the value of female leadership and its contribution to the sustainability of their business (financially as well) and the world around us, there is no excuse for them to not provide the same or greater level of support and investment into female workers' development and advancement as leaders.


Change of mindset also can start from early age education where we teach and show children the importance of inclusive community and how we can all play a part in helping one another and making a difference for collective good. Providing access to inclusive childcare for working women is also important. In order for the workplaces to be truly inclusive (and not just saying it), families need to also understand the importance of education for girls and giving every child and every person (with other disadvantages) a choice for them to contribute to the society in their own unique ways. -@MasamiSato 


Patricia Yuste: Unveiling the Entrepreneurial Spirit and Social Impact Advocacy

  1. Foster a culture of respect and inclusion: Encourage open communication and reporting of any discriminatory or harassing behavior. Develop clear policies and procedures for addressing such issues and ensuring swift and appropriate action.


  1. Invest in women's career development: Offer mentorship and sponsorship programs specifically for women, connecting them with experienced professionals for guidance and career advancement. Provide opportunities for professional development and training programs tailored to address the specific needs and challenges faced by women in the workplace. Support participation in conferences, workshops, and networking events relevant to women's professional development.


  1. Champion women in leadership: Actively promote and support women for leadership positions, including board seats and executive roles. Create opportunities for women to showcase their skills and expertise through public speaking engagements, conference presentations, and internal leadership development programs. -@PatyYuste 


Isha N. William: A Dynamic Force in Leadership, Social Impact, and Women Empowerment

Women empowerment and upliftment has always been at the core of FEXLE’s values. To create more equitable and inclusive workplaces for women, we can take concrete steps such as implementing mentorship programs specifically tailored to support women's career advancement. Pairing senior female leaders with junior female employees can provide invaluable guidance, networking opportunities, and encouragement.


Additionally, conducting regular trainings for all employees can help raise awareness and promote a culture of inclusivity where women feel valued, respected, and empowered to thrive.


Virginia Tenpenny: Nurturing Hope, Fostering Impact, and Embracing Learning

Creating equitable and inclusive workplaces for women requires a comprehensive approach that is reflected across policies, programs and company culture. Companies need to address structural issues from pay transparency to equity across pay and benefits. And people need to “see it to be it”, meaning leadership teams need to reflect the diverse workforce and it’s important for women to see leaders who may also be working moms or in a caregiver role.


Two-way mentorship is also important for leaders to understand challenges women face in the workplace and understand what support they need from their employer - from flexible schedules to training and mentorship programs. Focusing on creating a more inclusive workplace for women, or any specific population, accelerates the creation of a more inclusive workplace for all.


Now, we want to hear from you! What can be done to make today’s workplaces more equitable and inclusive for women?

Share your answers in the comments below and let's continue to inspire each other on our journey of creating positive social impact!


Diversity & Inclusion Engagement Manager, Zuora

I recently saw the Men vs Women Hula Hoop challenge on social media - it's such a powerful example of the importance of Women being fully represented and empowered in equitable ways. The how is the tough one, as we know well that many of these institutions were designed to keep power in the hands of men.  I think back to the "take your daughter to work" days and wonder if we should start that again - Put a Woman in charge for the week, and let's see it's impact on the business!

Thank you all for your thoughts! Each one brought be back to the hula hoop challenge!

Kali N
Helping Hand
Social Impact @ Atlassian Foundation, Atlassian Foundation International Limited (AFIL)

The Hula Hoop challenge was a great example of different collaborative styles!

Social Impact @ Atlassian Foundation

Director/Business Manager, Index Engineering

My business has 80% male, 20% female. It's a mechanical engineering consultancy, and by far the majority of people graduating in mechanical engineering are men (as this type of engineering is more appealing to men than women). I think that allowing for part-time work and allowing for flexibility around school holidays and for things like allowing time of during the day to attend school presentations etc, provides opportunity for women who are in this field, as it means that they can take care of family AND work. (All our women, including myself, work part-time, whereas all the men work fulltime.) This is a way to ensure inclusivity in the workplace.  In addition, it is important to make sure that part-time workers have the opportunity for professional development (could be on a pro-rata basis) and promotion, i.e. that they are not discriminated against because they are not working fulltime. Ensuring that the part-time workers are included in social events as much as the full-time workers is also important, as well as designing events that suit all.  We also have a family-focus with allowing children to visit the office (we have a child-height whiteboard, and a jar of lollies) and have a family-style Christmas where I buy individually-chosen gifts for all the children. This helps women as well as men feel welcome, and that we care about more than just their work - we care about them as human beings.

Path Finder
Business & Program Manager, Vertex Cyber Security

Ingrid, I absolutely agree that these are important measures in terms of inclusivity.

There is a fantastic event held by the Women Leaders Insitute called the Women in STEMM leadership summit and it has run for the last 2 years in March. It is a very interesting and engaging summit which looks at a lot of these issues.

One of my key takeways from the speakers this year was how critical it is for those flexible working and parental leave policies to also be taken up by men and how much of a difference it can make having men also working part time, flexibly or taking parental leave. Such an important step in normalising more equitable sharing of home and caregiving responsibilities. Prof Lisa Harvey-Smith also shared insights from her research, and talked about the rate of attrition in women in STEMM with only a small percentage of women remaining in STEMM careers 5 years after entering the workforce!

As a side note, I also found it interesting that you have found that mechanical engineering is more appealing to men. One of the big lessons for me recently was how much the research indicates that familiarity with STEMM concepts, careers and female role models builds girls' interest in pursuing these areas of study. It actually made me reach out to my kids school principal to better understand how they are approaching this in the educational setting, but it also made me realise how much my husband and I need to be talking about these concepts at home too.


Director/Business Manager, Index Engineering

Thanks for your reply! Yes, perhaps it is the age-old issue of nature vs nurture.The attraction to people vs inanimate things. Girls still tend to play with dolls and boys with toy cars, when given both types of toys to play with. (In general. There are always exceptions, of course!) Is this nature or nurture?  We will all have our views on this...


I have been investigating people entering engineering professions recently (as part of my MBA studies) and found that a recent study identified that women tend to choose engineering careers for different reasons than men: females choose STEM at tertiary level for reasons of being intrinsically interested in STEM, whereas males choose a STEM career due to being interested but ALSO  for reasons related to income and perceived career opportunities, i.e. whether or not they are particularly interested in engineering/maths etc.  


I also found that the percentage of school high-school students taking STEM subjects to advanced levels is declining. Maybe there are so many other subjects on offer now - and maths/science is seen as being difficult... (which is not wrong!).


It's good that you are supporting your children to consider all options for career pathways.


I agree re the attrition rate of women exiting STEM careers. I went to a talk last year where another student had researched this - she found that construction engineering, in particular, is not that great for women due to men's attitudes. 


Also I agree re allowing men time off for family-time, As well as allowing for flexiblity in working times,  it also needs awareness on our part of which staff might welcome overtime, and which staff don't want to do that.  In New Zealand, men or women get two weeks of sick leave per year, and they are allowed to use that time to look after sick children or a sick family member.


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